Cross-party motion to reconsider decision not to fight 800-home ‘Hellsenham’ application fails

10:04 19 July 2014

Uttlesford District Council

Uttlesford District Council

Archant

Uttlesford’s ruling Conservatives have quashed an attempt by the opposition Liberal Democrat group to overturn a decision not to fight a controversial 800-home development on appeal.

Last year Uttlesford District Council’s (UDC) planning committee twice threw out a proposal for a large-scale settlement between Elsenham and Henham.

Developer The Fairfield Partnership then announced its intention to appeal the decision.

Much to the chagrin of residents, however, it was decided at a closed meeting held last month that the council would not provide evidence to fight the appeal at a hearing with the Planning Inspector.

At a full council meeting on Tuesday, Lib Dem leader Alan Dean called for the decision to be overturned. The motion had cross-party support, with four Tory rebels among the voices of dissent.

He said: “The planning committee gives the perception that it has been politicised, caught dancing knowingly or innocently to a tune played by the cabinet through its officers.

“The application was manipulated by officers and leading members last autumn to try to achieve approval of 800 homes at the Fairfield site at Elsenham/Henham.

“They failed in November to get the committee to reverse October’s refusal. Are we now meant to accept that the reasons for refusal won’t wash at an appeal?”

Lib Dem Cllr Elizabeth Parr added: “This is not a council residents feel they can trust, this is not a council they feel has their best interest at heart and this is not a council they feel has integrity.”

Members of the Conservative group were quick to defend the council’s actions.

Cllr Keith Eden said: “At the first meeting, the planning committee made an error of judgement, at the second meeting they made another error of judgement, at the third meeting they got it right.”

Cllr Dean’s motion was ultimately watered down by deputy leader Susan Barker, a Tory, so the final agreement was for little more than the council to note the planning committee’s closed-door decision. The decision not to appeal the Fairfield application was not overturned.

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